With a bid to the state meet at stake, runners from prep teams all over Southeast Alaska will converge at Thunder Mountain High School for the Region V Track & Field Championship Meet, and the Crimson Bears will be waiting.
The meet will include 2A, 3A and 4A teams.
Two weeks ago against many of the same Southeast schools, Juneau-Douglas dominated the track at TMHS. And with a full roster of athletes at coach Janette Gagnon's disposal, a trip to Lathrop for a shot at the the state crown is the Crimson Bears' to lose.
"We have a really strong looking team, and we're shooting for a lot of first-place performances and a lot of state qualifiers," she said. "It will be pretty interesting to see how big of a team we wind up taking to state this year."
The Crimson Bears took 20 out of 34 events at the Juneau Invitational earlier this month, and with many of the same runners and throwers competing, there will be a number of athletes to watch this weekend. JDHS also has some new throwers to look out for.
Gagnon said two Bears jumpers, junior Andre Bunton and sophomore Jesse Miller, are improving with each week and are expected to represent JDHS at the state meet. She also said seniors Buzzy Hotch, Lawrence Fenumiai and Eric Sele will throw for the first time this season, and could challenge for a place at state.
"We've been trying to talk these guys into throwing for a few years now," Gagnon said. "With pretty bad form - since they've only been practicing for a few weeks - those boys can throw quite far. It's pretty amazing to watch."
Another name to watch is Bears junior hurdler Emily Sharp, who set a school record in the 100-meter hurdles two weeks ago on the same track. And Stanford-bound senior runner Leah Francis is expected to dominate the distance races once again.
While all the schools will be participating together, the competition will be divided between 2A/3A schools and the 4A schools.
Juneau-Douglas, Thunder Mountain and Ketchikan will be competing against each other, and other Southeast schools - Gustavus, Petersburg, Skagway, Haines, Sitka and Yakutat - will compete separately for the right to go to state. This format was adopted in recent years and has allowed more representation from Southeast high schools at the state championship meet.
Gagnon said the sprint events will most likely be the most interesting to watch as both the Falcons and the Kings have strong runners that will challenge the Bears.
Falcons coach Scott May said the young Thunder Mountain squad is going into the meet ready to compete, but he doesn't place great expectations on the inexperienced team.
"We would be thrilled if we qualified anybody for the state meet," May said. "Our focus at every meet is to get our personal bests and if a state berth comes out of that, it'll be wonderful."
May said junior Donald Stokes has a great shot to grab first place in a couple of events, especially in the high jump, where he is one of the best in the Southeast Conference. At the Juneau Invitational, Stokes and Miller tied for first with the exact same distance in the long jump, and both athletes are favored again this weekend.
"We've got some relays that could sneak in as well," May added. "If they hit their exchanges and get PRs in those events, we could surprise some folks."
Junior thrower Tyrel Kramp led the Southeast Conference in the shot put this season for Thunder Mountain, but he is expected to face stiff competition with Hotch, Sele and Fenumiai in the mix for JDHS.
May also said freshman Shayla Reeves and junior Sydney Thorne have a chance to perform well in several events for the Falcons on the girls' side, including the relays.
"Like I said, if we have safe, fast exchanges and someone maybe makes a mistake, we just might rise to the occasion and turn in some fantastic times," he said.
As for the competition, names to watch for include Ketchikan senior runners Austin Meredith, Dylan Daniels and Carlo Credito, senior jumper Tyller Bell, and senior thrower Crystal Blair.
The meet begins at 1 p.m. Friday at Thunder Mountain High School, and resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday.
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